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One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. That’s one of my many credos—one that goes a long way in explaining why my mind seized upon the necessity of possessing a table and four chairs that had been discarded by some neighbors at the beach. When I saw the set from a distance, I was impressed. Why, I wondered, are they leaving such a cool outdoor combo behind?

When I sauntered nonchalantly across the street for a closer examination, I knew why. The paint was spotty and peeling, and a couple of chair legs were coming apart. And lest I forget, the glass for the table top was missing. Still….

Five minutes later, one of my granddaughters and her grandfather and I were hauling it to my carport. I was confident something could be done. Just about everyone present looked at me with that Whatever expression, thus deepening my determination to salvage the pieces. Salvage is too weak a word. Beautify is more appropriate.

Admittedly, though, I was a little intimated by the cat hair embedded in the chair cushions. And the mildew and numerous stains. And the smell was none too pleasant.

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Remaining confident, I brought the chairs back to Camden, and my husband and I made a return trip to pick up the table.

  • I cleaned the chairs and table with Dawn and a scrub brush and let them dry in the sun.
  • My husband removed the fabric from the cushions and cleaned the underlying layer.
  • I spent the better part of an hour in JoAnn’s deliberating over fabric. This involved sending photos to one of my daughters and asking the opinion of other shoppers.
  • The hubs and his daughter Jenny covered the chair cushions with shell fabric, a selection that an employee at JoAnn’s pronounced “classy.” img_7476
  • I chalk painted the table and decided it was too dull and chalky. Outside furniture needs a bit more gloss—and protection.
  • I hot glued some loose pieces of wicker and chopped others off with a pair of scissors. They were too curled up to cooperate in lying flat.
  • I found some “safe” (not too wild) Rust-Oleum paint called Khaki at Lowe’s, and before the painting was completed, we (95 percent Jayne) used nearly eight cans spraying the five pieces. The last can might have a few squirts left, and I put it away just in case. img_7353
  • I took the table to Baker’s Glass in Camden, and they cut a circular glass top. As a bonus, I met up with a former colleague there and had a wonderful chat.

 

At long last, we stepped back to admire the work. The way I look at it, we invested $34 on paint, $22 on fabric (they were having a sale), and $60 on the glass. The finished product is much, much more appealing than others I’ve spotted with high price tags, and I predict hours and hours of conversation, laughter, food, and maybe even singing shared around that table.

P.S. Instead of using a card table or dragging in a heavy wooden table from another room, I used the updated outdoor set for luncheon seating this week. There was a lot of positive feng shui around that circle. 🙂

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While in Myrtle Beach over the weekend, we visited Barnes and Noble. How I love a good bookstore! This one is within walking distance of our little pied-à-terre (using words like this for the benefit of Martha and Jim) at Seagate. I gravitated towards the bargain books and was torn between one with pictures of China, one about feng shui, and one by John Maxwell entitled The Maxwell Daily Reader. DH reminded me that I could always come to the bookstore to look at the China pix and that I already had about a dozen books on feng shui, so I opted for the Maxwell daily reader. By the way, I only have about ten feng shui books, not 12.

Anyway, I want to share the gist of today’s reading concerning the “30-second rule.” Maxwell reminds the reader(s) that we’ve been taught of the importance of good first impressions and that when we first meet others, we try to make ourselves look good. Reverse that process, he advises, and you’ll find this practice rewarding when you realize the positive impact it has on on others.

This does take some time and effort, however. You don’t want to be glib and full of fake flattery. Sincerity is important. Suggestions include thanking someone for something he’s done for you or for a friend or family member, praising someone for an accomplishment, or simply complimenting another on her appearance. It’s not hard, but it does require effort. It also requires that you step out of your comfort zone.

I think one reason I like this way of thinking so much is because I see it ALL THE TIME in the works of great and/or influential people. There must be something to this, right? For instance, each morning Benjamin Franklin reportedly asked himself what he could do for others that day, and in the evening he asked himself what he had actually done. Thomas S. Monson, President of the LDS church, focuses on service to others and encourages members worldwide to do, say, think, act, and live in loving, giving ways.

So what have I done so far today? Absolutely nothing. The day is young, however, and I plan to rectify my narrow-minded and selfish focus soon. In fact, I think I’ll start in my next class…and maybe I’ll donate some money to the humanitarian aid fund of the LDS Church to help the victims of Haiti’s earthquake.  In the short run, I can text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross relief for Haiti.

First things first. I’m going to post this in hopes that you’ll follow Maxwell’s, Franklin’s, and Monson’s advice. Then I’m going out in the hall and pay someone a compliment.

Yesterday  was magnificent. Yes,magnificent. Not just okay or fine or great but absolutely superb. For years, as Christmas vacation grew to a close, I’d often say, “If only I had just one more day, one day of my own to putter, listen to music, hang around the house in sloppy duds, read a book, cook some homemade soup, and watch a little television.  Today I did it, all of the above and a little bit more.

First, I moved all of the Christmas stuff and wow, I liked the minimalist look. Things were bare and basic. My dining and living rooms had what I’ve heard described as the “fullness of nothing,” and it was rather nice. Have you ever been to someone’s home and felt closed in by all the stuff? I have, and I’ve often wondered why they didn’t just take some little something away. Little did I realize that I’ve been guilty of the same thing.

So I continued to putter and rearrange, and although I eventually put many items back in the exact same place, I moved others and put some away. I mean, how many candles does one need on display? How many family pictures are too many? That’s kind of a challenge because since we have a rather large family, we have tons of pictures and like having them out to look at. Some people advise that family photos should be away from public view and back in the bedrooms. I say you should decorate however you wish and that if you want a life size portrait of your grandchild as the focal point in your living room, it’s okay by me.

I’m not a fanatic, but I enjoy order and cleanliness. Mother Ann Lee who founded the United Society of Believers instructed her followers to remember that order was heaven’s first law. “There is no dirt in heaven” she said. I’ve read that the Shakers elevated order to a sacred art, and while I didn’t get that carried away, there’s only a minimal amount of clutter around there today. Too much of it creates confusion and chaos in my psyche, and I can’t even think straight or feel the inner peace I need.

Plus, my house is in feng shui order. I’m too lazy to look up an exact definition right now, so you’ll have to settle for mine: the ancient Chinese art of arranging one’s surroundings in such a way that more chi or positive energy is brought into play. Even a little bit of it can bring more harmony, clarity, and feelings of peace into a home. For instance, little things like having books in view reportedly increases insight. Having a mirror in your dining room to expands the abundance. Moving 27 things around a year gets the chi going and enhances our ability to move on with our lives. I worked on the latter yesterday, and it’s amazing what a difference little changes can make.

Sarah ban Breathnach says that when we clean and order our homes, we are somehow cleaning and ordering ourselves. I believe her. Now that my home is in order, I’m ready to tackle my working world. Sumter, here I come.

Before yesterday, I’d never tasted citrus rice before. Ummm. It was delicious, especially the small chunks of pineapple. On our way back from Atlanta, some friends and I stopped in Madison, GA for lunch and a bit of antique browsing. We ate at the Chop House, a wonderful diner with sage green walls and huge windows overlooking the tree-lined streets. We opted to sit outside on the Chop House Patio where the ambience was even better. Except for the occasional cigarette smoke wafting over from a nearby table, it was what Van Morrison would call fantabulous. The food, the conversation, the temperature, the gentle breeze, our fellow diners, our server, the white china rimmed in black, a small lizard, and the sight of the surrounding trees beginning to change colors all combined to make it memorable. To add the icing on the cake, Nancy regaled us with hilarious tales of her father during her dating years. It’s always good to laugh and talk with friends.

To backtrack a bit, the four of us went to New York together in May and seemed to get along well (except for that business about leaving me at the Brooklyn Bridge, that is). Just kidding, Lisa.  Anyway, with one trip behind us, we knew that we traveled well together and that we liked many of the same things. Hence, when I learned that Chicago was playing in Atlanta at the fabulous Fox Theatre, I asked it they’d be interested, and they said YES. We asked some other people if they’d like to accompany us, but they all declined. Maybe next time.

 We left Nancy’s around 10:00 a.m. Friday morning, and after a couple of stops along the way, we finally arrived in Atlanta six hours later. Our husbands and families probably won’t be too surprised to learn that we talked pretty much nonstop. As a consequence, we came up with solutions to the nation’s healthcare problems and education issues. We also discussed the economy, SC’s recent embarrassments, and the lack of civility that surrounds and astounds us.  We also talked about more down-to-earth and personal topics, but I’ll never tell. Suffice it to say that we all agree on the importance of family, past and present, and relationships.

Before the play on Friday night, we ate at an Italian restaurant near the theatre where the food was good, but the atmosphere was anything but. The acoustics were horrific, and finally the four of us gave up trying to have any semblance of a conversation. After dinner, we walked down the block to the fabulous Fox where we were greeted by a tall, courtly African American man whose hospitality and Southern charm were contagious. Once inside, we admired the atmosphere and décor, especially the star studded ceiling.

I think I speak for the four of us when I say that the production of Chicago was well worth the price of the ticket. The lead roles played by Velma and Roxie were especially riveting. These women are so talented! While we thought that Jerry Springer did an okay job of playing Billy Flynn, we were disappointed that he didn’t dance more. He just seemed to lack the razzle dazzle of Richard Gere who played that part in the movie version.  The only “fly in the ointment” that evening was the price of souvenirs. I really really really wanted a tee-shirt that said “Not guilty,” but $35 put it out of my price range.

After the musical, we went back to the Georgian Terrace where we had reservations. It’s a lovely hotel with lots of good feng shui, and I especially liked the marble floors and the sound of mellow, jazzy music in the background. Before retiring to our room, we sauntered through the restaurant that had both inside and outside seating. 

Saturday morning, Nancy visited with her son, and Paul and Amanda picked up Lisa, Martha, and me, and we breakfasted together at the Flying Biscuit.   Since I got to break bread with two of the people I love most in the world, this event was especially sweet for me. Our round table was beside an open window (literally no pane) and was painted with stars. Stars and flying biscuits adorned the walls of this unique eatery as well. As we dined, we were treated to close up views of walkers, joggers, and dozens of dogs. It was nice to be in midtown Atlanta with its teeming life and variety. If you ever make it to the Flying Biscuit, be sure to sample the cranberry apple butter. Amanda, Martha, and I highly recommend it. Breakfast complete, Paul drove us to see the Margaret Mitchell house. Since Martha teaches literature and Lisa teaches history, seeing it was a fitting way to end our short but exciting trip to the big City. 

On the road again, our conversation resumed. As mentioned above, we did a lot of talking about our families, especially those ancestors who have influenced us so much. At this stage of my life, I LOVE that stuff, the links from the past to the present and the consideration of  how those links will affect the future. I’d write more about it, but it’s time to do some serious D2L work and some preparation for tomorrow.

Last weekend Amanda, my sweet daughter-in-law, and I were talking about changes in life, and she mentioned how much she missed Myrtle Beach and expressed the hope that they’d move back there someday. Since she and Paul both grew up in the area, I’m sure it was hard to leave family and friends for Atlanta. When Amanda mentioned that the main friends they now have are from church and work, it got me to thinking about friends and the importance of keeping the old and of making new ones. Plus, it reminded me of a quote I read by Eleanor Roosevelt last week: “The narrower you make the circle of your friends, the narrower will be your experience of people and the narrower will your interests become. It is an important part of one’s personal choices to decide to widen the circle of one’s acquaintances whenever one can.”

Being back in my hometown has occasionally thrown me into the company of friends and acquaintances from the past. It’s enjoyable to rub shoulders with those with whom I share a history, people who know my “back story.” Being around Patty and Joan Ella this past weekend reminded me of the importance of roots, memories, and a collective past.

At the same time, new friends are wonderful too. Sitting with Connie at church Sunday reinforced that. We share the same faith, ups and downs with our children and grandchildren, a love of books, an appreciation of terms like feng shui and wabi sabi, excitement over terms like Namaste, and an appreciation for the several ways one can accessorize black. A couple of other “C” friends, Carol and Cindy from Church, have also added to my enjoyment of life back in good old Camden. So have dozens of other Relief Society members. Our shared sisterhood in the gospel of Jesus Christ centers our lives and provides a sense of community and belongingness like no other…unless it’s with family.

Then there are work friends, people I’d never even laid eyes on this time seven years ago but who are now people whose conversation and company I’ve come to enjoy. Four of us are heading to New York City the day after graduation, and almost daily we discuss some little detail of our trip. Martha ordered the tickets for West Side Story and gave me mine today. Lisa and I had planned to look at the times of the ferry rides to Ellis Island, but we were interrupted by a student who needed a listening ear. Again, these people were complete strangers to me seven years ago.

On Thursday of last week my sister Ann and I went to MUSC to sit with my sister-in-law while my brother was in surgery, and while we were sitting in the fourth floor surgical waiting room, I heard someone say, “Jayne” in a soft, almost inaudible voice. I turned to see Ellen, a woman with whom I worked when I lived at the coast. Talking to her conjured up all sorts of recollections of dear friends with whom I shared so many good times during our “trying twenties” and “catch thirties.” Er, I guess we shared much of our forties too. We went through marriages, children, divorces, remarriages, disappointments, promotions, and a host of other vicissitudes of adult life. June, if you’re out there reading this, I miss you…and Ella, Elaine, Mary, Gail, Millie, Judy, Linda, Murph, and Teresa.

Last but far from least, there are my blog friends, most of whom I’ve never seen eye-to-eye but whose voices have become familiar and important to me. They’ve stimulated my thinking and broadened my horizons. At odd times, I find myself thinking about one or another of them (of you!) and wondering how a certain situation is evolving. Right now, NoSurfGirl’s little girls are on my mind.

I’ve gone on longer than I intended. Sorry about that. My purpose was to stress the importance of friends and to let Amanda know what a feast she has in store for her as she travels through her adult years. Reading E. Roosevelt’s quote and thinking about friends has encouraged me to continue widening my circle of acquaintances and friends.

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I snapped this picture of the American Society of Buddhist Studies  on my recent trip to New York. One of my brothers likes to harass me about the statue of Buddha that’s sitting atop my grandmother’s secretary. In fact, whenever he comes to visit, he usually turns Buddha around to face the wall. No matter how much I protest, I think Mike thinks I worship idols, but this is completely erroneous. Money, fame, fortune, huge homes, expensive cars, looks, possessions, degrees, movie stars, rock stars, super athletes, etc. are more idolized than my cream colored statue of Buddha.

Although I bought little Buddha for the aesthetic value, I must admit that looking at the statue never fails to conjure up the reasons why I developed an interest in him in the first place. It was through a book. Imagine that. Years ago, I read The Road Less Traveled by Dr. Scott Peck, a book that I still find myself referring to from time to time. It’s what I call a “deep” book, not one you can read once and put aside. The subtitle, “a new psychology of love, traditional values, and spiritual growth” prepares the reader for what’s ahead.

I knew very little about Buddha in 1980, but after reading Peck’s introduction, I did a little research. Here are a few lines from the beginning of The Road:

“Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.* It is a great truth because once we truly see its truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. …
Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. …
Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them?”

*The first of the “Four Noble Truths” which Buddha taught was “Life is suffering.”

I could go on and on and on about this. For today, I’ll just say that I learned more about Buddha and his truths and the eightfold path. One of the many things I learned is that one cause of suffering is desire. If you want to suffer less, desire less. Sometimes I think our greedy materialism, the desire for more and more “stuff,”  leads to suffering. The more we get, the more we want. It’s an endless, never quenchable cycle. It’s as if the worship of “idols” mentioned above is the cause of much suffering. Buddha says, like many of the great teachers, to renounce and enjoy. We say, as Americans, that we want more, more, more.

So I glance at Buddha and remember not to moan or whine. Life is suffering, and while I have problems like everyone else, I’m going to try to solve them instead of whine about them.

P.S.  You wouldn’t believe how lovely the statue looks contrasted with the russet red walls. Stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connie calls it wabi sabi, and I call it feng shui, and although you might not be familiar with these terms, everyone reading this knows what’s meant by the “feel” of a house…or home. In some situations, you get the cold pricklies when you cross the threshold, and in another place, you feel that the atmosphere is charged with hostility and underlying negative energy currents. Other places feel boring, sterile, and devoid of life and laughter. You know what I mean, right?

 

About twenty years ago, I heard an older, wiser woman talk about the importance of one’s bedroom in influencing mood, sleep, and general restfulness (or not). She said that since the décor, including wall color and furnishings, was the last thing a person saw before shutting her eyes and the first things she glimpsed upon opening them the next morning, the sight should be pleasant, beautiful, and calming. Call me dumb, but I’d never thought of this before. Never. And yet it made perfect sense. That weekend I began looking at paint chips and later repainted the room and changed the curtains. That was the beginning of a long term and continuing interest in the power of the environment to affect mood, peace of mind, and energy.

 

About ten years ago, I was introduced to the Chinese concept of feng shui, two words that literally mean wind and water. By applying some of its principles, I learned that a person could easily add more positive energy (chi) into her environment and lessen the effects of negative energy (sha). This made perfect sense to me, especially when you consider that electromagnetic energy flows around and through us and everything else in the universe.

 

I’ll have to concur with my friend Connie in that some of the terms can be a bit overwhelming, but learning and applying some of the basics can be fun, easy, and low cost. Although I’m no expert, I do have a few favorite ideas:

 

  • Color is important, and red is a “fire” color associated with energy. While I don’t want to feel over stimulated and fidgety, having a touch of red or orange in each room is invigorating. 
  • Numbers are important too. Off the top of my head, I recall that the number four is foundational, secure, safe, and stable since it holds the energy pattern of the square. Once we lived in a house in which the kitchen was a little small, and yet we usually ate our meals in there. To free up more space, the kitchen table was usually pushed up against the wall, and my daughter Carrie literally hated that arrangement. Rarely did she walk through the room without commenting on it. Largely to pacify her, I moved the table out a bit and put a chair on each side. The difference that one little move made was amazing! Not only did the room now seem more stable and secure, but also it seemed that chi was freer to move around instead of getting “smushed” up against a wall.
  • Furniture arrangement should be carefully considered as well. Time prohibits me from giving lots of examples, so I’ll just mention one for the bedroom. Never have the foot of a bed aligned with an open door. That’s the “death position,” the spot in which the dearly departed were placed before removing them from the home.
  • Texture and pattern count too. Recently my son remarked that he thought the bedroom that he shares with his bride is a little too feminine. I reminded him that once you get married, there are all sorts of compromises, one being the home décor. While he’s absolutely right in that the furniture and the bedding are of lighter colors (blue, yellow, and white), the living room of the apartment is more masculine in that the furniture is leather. The maps are framed in dark wood. What I’m saying is that the apartment is a good combination of yin and yang.
  • How we use space should also be considered. In the home that we recently moved from, there was a wide hall straight down the middle of the house. In fact, a person standing at the front door could look directly to the back door. Ummm. Not good. Chi could easily come in, but it swished down the hall quickly and was out the door. What did we do? We put a bench at the end of the hall to divert the flow of energy, and most of the time I kept a glass paned door dividing the living room from the hall closed.
  • I’m getting a little carried away here (this stuff is so exciting to consider), but I just have to mention tables before getting back to work (the kind I get paid for). My sweet husband and I bought our cute little oak dining room table at a yard sale, and we both love it. It’s round unless company’s coming, and then we insert the leaf, thus making it a large oval. According to the feng shui experts, round is not good! They say the energy swirls around so quickly that the dining/socializing experience is not as pleasant as it would be with a square or oval table. Well, we LOVE the table, and to calm the swirling chi, we bought four (there’s that stable number again) leather wasabi (great color, great word) with high backs. It’s the coolest room!

More on this later. For now, let’s just say that whatever makes you feel comfortable, supported, secure, and pleasant is what you should incorporate in your home, office, yard, and even car. If you want to know more about the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, there are beaucoup books on the subject. For now, share some ideas that you have about making your environment more appealing.

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